For someone who hand planes everything when building furniture, I find that I traverse (or plane across the grain) very little.
I avoid it deliberately as I find the action suits neither our workbenches nor our bodies particularly well.
The reason that I thickness by hand is not because I’m stuck in the past, but because I believe the skills it requires are valuable throughout our work, and it adds a considerable depth and dimension to your finished pieces. Planing boards by hand is a part of my work that I’ve practiced, experimented with and researched, probably more than any other.
Much of the resources readily available in books or online cover the subject from a very fixed perspective of a single board, and I find this only adds to the sense that this type of work is laborious and time consuming. It doesn’t leave you feeling like you want to go out and tackle all of the timber needed for your six board chest.
The approach to hand preparing boards should vary almost as much as the timber you’re planing; no two pieces will be identical.
Traverse planing is one of the tricks that you should have up you sleeve, but I don’t feel that it should be called upon perhaps as much as people seem to feel today.
I”ll prepare most boards without any cross grain planing at all. This might seem unusual, but I can guarantee that it’s the most energy and time efficient way to get the job done in the real world (not the one board race).
A small amount of traversing goes a long way. One example of where I use it is to ensure absolute flatness on very wide boards (e.g panels) but only after I’ve taken down all of the high spots and I’m within a close tolerance of flat.
Anyone who exercises, will understand that if you go about something in the wrong way – e.g running with poor technique, then you’ll be burnt out almost instantly.
The same applies to hand planing. Understanding the term ‘the long haul’ and pacing yourself are absolutely fundamental, no one won a marathon for sprinting.
Hand planing should not feel like a marathon or a sprint, it should feel like a nice brisk walk, and once you find your pace you can walk all day.
It’s this progressive pace that gets hindered by cross grain planing, along with any technique that falls upon shoddy body dynamics.
An introduction to hand thicknessing is covered in Chapter One of Spoon Rack Series and in addition the Series includes a ‘Response Rant’ video, (our way of answering member’s questions in detail.) Traversing is discussed in this ‘Response Rant’ along with other thicknessing questions on seating the board and the choice of camber on my irons. There’s a quick extract in the video above. Details of the full Video Series can be found here.